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North India still trusts tantrics for mental illnesses: Survey

Dr. Sunil Mittal
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Dr Sunil Mittal

Rohit Shishodia
Lack of awareness about treatment of mental illnesses and the stigma attached with it mean that people with mental health issues are taken to the tantric, baba or local healer for treatment instead of being taken to the hospital. This has been revealed in a survey conducted by the Cosmos Institute of Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences (CIMBS), Delhi.

The recent survey was among 10,233 individuals with mental illness in the North Indian states of UP, Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarkhand. It highlighted that 44% of the 10,233 persons with mental illness (PMI) are likely to counseled at home or taken to the local healer, baba or tantric.

The survey highlighted that only 43% thought the PMI was likely to be taken to a hospital. 22% felt that the law should make it easier for PMIs to get treatment while 39% thought that law should make it easier for caregivers to facilitate treatment for PMIs.

The survey revealed that 28% did not consider suicide to be associated with mental illness. 49% perceived mental health issues to not be common while 57% were not aware of any PMI and were likely unable to recognize common symptoms.

Only 8% were aware that mental health illness is covered under insurance scheme. 80% had no health insurance or thought mental health treatment was not covered. 9% participants were covered by the government schemes.

87% participants wanted use of mobile phones or apps and tele-medicine for treatment of mental illnesses. But, policy on use of such technology in mental healthcare is lacking. Just 26% felt government provided adequate support to PMIs.

26% participants reported no mental health facility or clinic within 50km radius. 49% had a mental facility within 20km. 59% reported lack of any de-addiction service in their area.   

Dr Sunil Mittal, Director, CIMBS, said that the National Mental Health Survey (2016) estimates lifetime prevalence of mental illness in India of 13.7% and over 150 million Indians with mental illness in need of active interventions.

“This study seeks to develop a further understanding of challenges in access to mental healthcare by studying a population spread across a wide area and age-groups which would ordinarily be expected to be informed and in a position to seek medical treatment, if needed,” he added.

Dr Mittal asserted that there is need for spreading awareness about mental health.


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